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1946 Noakhali Pogrom: The Mastermind Gholam Sarwar Husseini

 

House of the Devil:  Diara Sharif of Shyampur, the residence of Ghulam Sarwar Husseini. 

In 1937, Gholam Sarwar Husseini, the scion of a Muslim Pir family, was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly on a Krishak Praja Party ticket. However, in the 1946 elections, he lost to a Muslim League candidate. Sarwar’s family happened to be the hereditary khadims at the Diara Sharif in Shyampur. After the Direct Action Day riots in Kolkata, Husseini began to deliver provocative speeches, making up false narratives and inciting the Muslim masses to take ‘revenge’ for the Kolkata riots (which was started by Muslims and Hindus were initially mute spectators and victims. Only after 3 days of non-stop looting, killing, rapes and destruction did the Hindus fight back in self-defence). 

In some places, Muslims began to boycott Hindu shops. In the Ramganj and Begumganj police station areas, the Muslim boatmen refused to ferry Hindu passengers. In the first week of September, Muslims looted the Hindu shops in Sahapur market. Hindu women were harassed and molested when they were returning to their native villages from Kolkata to spend the puja holidays. From 2nd October onwards there were frequent instances of stray killings, theft and looting.

According to Governor Burrows, “the immediate occasion for the outbreak of the disturbances was the looting of a Bazar [market] in Ramganj police station following the holding of a mass meeting and a provocative speech by Gholam Sarwar Husseini.” That included attacks on the place of business of Surendra Nath Bose and Rajendra Lal Roy Choudhury, the former president of the Noakhali Bar and a prominent Hindu Mahasabha leader.

The main pogrom started on the 10th of October, on Kojagari Lakshmi Puja day, when the Bengali Hindus were involved in puja activities. Ghulam Sarwar instructed the Muslim masses to march towards the Sahapur market. Another Muslim League leader, Kasem, also arrived at the Sahapur market with his private army, then known as Kasemer Fauz(literally Kasem’s army). 

After that Kasem’s army marched to Narayanpur to the zamindari office of Surendranath Basu. They were joined there by another Muslim mob from Kalyannagar. Some of the Muslim tenants also joined the mob and attacked the zamindari office. 

On 11 October, the private army of Gholam Sarwar, known as the Miyar Fauz, attacked the residence of Rajendralal Roychowdhury, the president of the Noakhali Bar Association and the Noakhali District Hindu Mahasabha. At that time Swami Tryambakananda of Bharat Sevashram Sangha was staying at their house as a guest. Roychowdhury fended off the mob from his terrace with his rifle for the entire day. At nightfall, when they retreated, he sent the swami and his family members to safety. The next day the mob attacked again.

(Information Collected from various sources)

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